THE DEMBARE FANS WHO FOUND GOLD IN THE WRECKAGE OF THEIR SHATTERED DREAMS…PROJECT DOOMED FROM START

A SOURCE OF JOKES . . . It’s now exactly two years since Dynamos launched their “DeMbare TV”, but on the second anniversary of that announcement, it’s worth noting this is a project that failed to take off the ground and those who welcomed it with Internet jokes like this image probably had a point after all

SHARUKO ON SATURDAY
THE striking irony of it all was that the boisterous party at the Camp Nou got underway the minute it became evident to the army of Barcelona fans that their dreams for a second straight home Champions League miracle had been shattered by an impregnable black-and-white Italian Wall.

Rather than abandon their players, after it became apparent the battle had been lost and there would be no sequel to that Miracle Against Paris, the Barca fans stayed in their fortress to witness the end of their latest campaign to be kings of Europe and endure the pain that came with such a shattering experience.

And remarkably, they even started a big outdoor party whose sights and sounds under the lights of Europe’s biggest stadium was something to behold — their voices drowning the cheers of the visiting victors — their blue-and-garnet colours, known as the Blaugrana, providing a fitting and spectacular backdrop to the occasion.

A people united by their doomed mission, a city at peace with its favourite club’s failure to perform another miracle, Catalonia pride flowing in that mist of gloom and providing a rainbow of light in the darkness of that boulevard of shattered dreams to make the losers somehow find a compelling reason to celebrate and sing at the end:

Blue and claret blowing in the wind

One valiant cry

We’ve got a name that everyone knows:

Barça, Barça, Baaarçaaaa.’’

How was that possible?

How could a team, which has achieved so much in the past few years in which it has transformed itself into the perfect template of what a football club should be, attract such sympathy on the occasion of their humiliation — in their own fortress — in which its star-studded trio had fired blanks just weeks after putting six past the boys from Paris?

How could a team, which had Messi, Suarez and Neymar — the finest attacking machine in world football which had scored in their 15 straight Champions League matches, in their home ground, leading up to the match against these Italian giants, suddenly fail to find the scoring touch, but yet, still enlist such a wave of sympathy, and support from their fans at the end of the match?

How could a team which had scored 21 goals in their last four previous Champions League matches at home this season and whose last failure to get — at least a goal — in both legs of this tournament having come four years ago when Bayern Munich managed to stop them scoring over 180 minutes, somehow fail this time around, but crucially find their fans in full voice in support of their adventure despite this failure?

Oh, yes, the other team to stop Barca from scoring in both legs of a Champions League contest was Manchester United, my Red Devils, but that was way back in the 2007 /2008 campaign and why is it that even after their team ensured it would for the first time in 50 Champions League matches feature in a game that ended goalless, the Catalan fans still found a reason to cheer their men at the end of the painful and doomed adventure on Wednesday night?

Surely, why would the gods of football punish them in such ruthless fashion by ensuring that these tears would flow in the very year that Barca are celebrating the 60th anniversary of moving into the Camp Nou, which has become their fortress, which the likes of Messi have turned into a slaughter chamber for visiting clubs over the years?

To understand all this you need to understand what Barca stands for, understand what it means when they say it’s more than a football club, understand why for 111 years, this institution resisted the temptation to do what they considered to be abusing their soul by selling the rights of the front part of their jersey to a sponsor and for five years they even paid UNICEF for carrying their logo on their shirts.

For these proud Catalans there is even more honour in losing the way they did on Wednesday — when their all wasn’t good enough — than winning in circumstances so dubious, as was the case with their biggest rivals Real Madrid who got a big helping hand from the referees in a match officiating display that was so diabolical it flirted on the boundaries of match-fixing — that the victory is overshadowed by the controversy generated by referees from hell.

In today’s high-stakes football world, where results seemingly mean everything and a Minister can call his failing national team “A BUNCH OF LOSERS,” there is little space for heroes in defeat even when, as Barca did in this battle, play against an opponent of a high defensive pedigree that remains unbeaten in the Champions League away from home this season.

WHEN THE BARCA FANS TOOK ME ON A JOURNEY BACK INTO THE PAST

Listening to those songs of both defiance and redemption at the conquered Camp Nou, watching those tears, in that boisterous party as this proud club finally acknowledged as we did when they thrashed us at Wembley in that Champions League final in 2011 that you can’t win everything in this game, that there are some defeats that carry a touch of integrity, it felt great.

That outpouring of love at the Camp Nou for a team that had done everything for the cause of its badge, the cause of its constituency, the cause of its people, but fell short, thanks to the defensive masterclass of a thoroughbred opponent, took me on a journey back into the past when I had the privilege to be part of such a knowledgeable and appreciative crowd that saw the virtues of their club’s performance even in the mist of the gloom of a failed adventure.

Back in the day when we had real football fans, like the late Taribo West who, as some have generally said it again and again, would pay the ultimate prize for his beloved Glamour Boys saying he succumbed to the injuries inflicted during a battering he received after violence broke out at Barbourfields.

Or when we had two CAPS United fans, affectionately known as “Madhara Ematumbu” would entertain us with their antics, or when Liqwa Gama would lead the Bosso roadshow, wherever his beloved Highlanders went, always being there in the trenches with his team, always in their corner and making such a huge impression they ended up taking him on board the club’s leadership structures.

Back in the day when the biggest fan at Masvingo United was a blind man who, without fail, would always be at Mucheke to cheer his football club, his love affair with Yuna Yuna not diluted by the fact he never saw any of his heroes or any of their goals.

Long before the arrival of H-Metro and how it has brought with it the celebrity fan who comes to the stadium looking for a chance to get captured by the tabloid’s cameras so that his picture can be featured on the newspaper’s Social Scene page, long before the arrival of Facebook which has brought with it the celebrity fan — who usually stays at home and never comes to the stadium — but is the biggest critic of events he or she hardly watches to give him a basis for such authoritative analysis.

When everything was pure, when going to football matches was something close to a religion, when my good old buddie Kudzi Shaba was still a Vietnam hooligan who derived a lot of pleasure in his status even though his day job as a bank teller, back in those days, required some sort of decency in his behaviour.

And, as the Camp Nou exploded in songs of defiance and celebration on Wednesday night, despite their beloved Barca’s elimination from the Champions League, those fans inside that giant fortress took me on a journey back to that unforgettable afternoon at the National Sports Stadium in 1996 when I had the privilege to be part of a cultured Dynamos crowd that found gold in the wreckage of their Champions League’s shattered dreams.

A people who found a reason to appreciate that, even in a lost cause, there could be an element of honour — as long as their men had put in a shift consistent with their expectations, as long as their troops had fought long and hard for the cause of their club, for the cause of their constituency and for the cause of everyone who believed in them — as was the case that afternoon.

Those Glamour Boys had succumbed to a 1-5 battering at the hands of Shooting Stars in Nigeria, in the first leg of the second round of the ’96 Champions League, with the majority of the players returning home with sickening tales of how they had been abused by a refereeing system designed to ensure their hosts didn’t only win that match, but do so comprehensively.

But, still, more than 40 000 DeMbare fans converged at the giant stadium for the second leg and their patronage and never-say-die spirit was rewarded by an attacking performance from their men, rich in purity, it remains one of this great club’s finest performances on the continent.

That, in the end, the scoreline was just 3-1 in favour of Dynamos, just two short of the five required to take this contest into an improbable penalty shoot-out was largely because of an inspired show by visiting ‘keeper Abioudun Baruwa who single-handedly repelled everything that was thrown at him that afternoon and whose quality would eventually see him playing in Austria, Wales and England and for the Super Eagles.

And, when the game was over, the fans at the National Sports Stadium rose in unison to give their Glamour Boys a standing ovation, even in the mist of DeMbare’s elimination from the Champions League, saluting them for serving their institution with distinction even on an afternoon when the mission had failed.

Sunday Chidzambwa, who was the coach back then, was moved to tears — the first and only time I have seen this gritty Warrior cry — as he struggled to contain the emotions provoked by the outpouring of love from the stands on a day when his soul was being tormented by a toxic combination his men’s failure, to write one of the greatest comeback stories in this tournament’s history, and the quality of a performance that merited more.

LLOYD MUTASA, THE ONE FATED NEVER TO BE LOVED, TO BE HONOURED

Others will tell you there is no honour in defeat, there is no virtue in celebrating elimination, no reason to bask in the sunshine when you have failed, when the mission has been doomed and, while their argument might carry some substance, for some of us — who had the privilege of being witnesses to the events of that day — will only say “forgive them Lord, for they don’t know what they are saying.’’

The statistics say it all — that DeMbare team was the only side, that year, to score more than two goals against that Shooting Stars side — in the Nigerians’ 10 matches in a Champions League campaign, in which the Ibadan side scored 17 goals, as they went all the way losing on penalties to Zamalek of Egypt after a 3-3 aggregate draw.

The Glamour Boys were the only club to beat that Shooting Stars side — which also eliminated holders Orlando Pirates and JS Kabylie of Algeria along the way — by a margin of more than two goals and when you consider that the Nigerians ‘keeper won the man-of-the-match award on that afternoon, I hope you get a good impression of the purity of that DeMbare’s show that day.

Poor Lloyd Mutasa, the one fated never to be loved and never to be honoured, missed both legs of that match, when he was at the very peak of his athletic powers, with an injury, but together with more than half his teammates from that Class of Glamour Boys, they would prove they were such a formidable side two years later by reaching the final of the Champions League.

Mutasa, scorer of the goal that beat Eagles Cement in their backyard, on DeMbare’s return to Nigeria in ’98, in a belated payback for the Nigerians for the way Shooting Stars had thrashed the Glamour Boys two years earlier in controversial fashion — aided by two penalties plucked from hell — played in both legs of the ’98 Champions League final against ASEC Mimosas.

Almost 20 years to those wild events in Abidjan, Mutasa is still in the trenches of his Glamour Boys, working for this huge football institution, crying out to be loved by fans who seemingly don’t believe in him, the way cruel fate ensured he would eliminated from the grand battles against Shooting Stars in ’96.

After guiding DeMbare to the Independence Cup success, which triggered wild celebrations — from a constituency desperate for success — which spilled into Harare’s Central Business District, Mutasa has spent the week pleading for patience from his club’s fans to enable him to build the foundation for a team, just like in 2011, which can help the Glamour Boys dominate the domestic scene again.

Back then, he was fired after having built a strong team, amid an outpouring of hatred from fans who felt he wasn’t up to the task, and Callisto Pasuwa came in and the rest, as they say, is history.

But, even in this unforgiving game, there are some who credit DeMbare’s four-year dominance of the Premiership under Pasuwa to the foundation built by Mutasa, those who say that had Cuthbert Malajila’s clearance been processed in time back then, things would have turned out differently for this coach.

Poor Lloyd can only wonder how things might have been different for him if the Glamour Boys — just Barcelona on Wednesday night — still had the kind of fans like the ones in ’96 who still believed of a miracle despite their team’s 1-5 thrashing in Nigeria with more than 40 000 coming to the National Sports Stadium to back their cause.

And, just like the Barcelona fans on Wednesday night who cheered their team in defeat, poor Lloyd can only wonder how things could turn out differently for him, this time around, if the Glamour Boys still had the kind of supporters who gave Mhofu and his men a standing ovation at the giant stadium in ’96 despite their elimination from the Champions League.

Those whose job, like those Barca fans, is to just sing for their men:

DeMbare iteam yedu

Zora Butter usekerere

Kana ndafa usandicheme

Ndoenda ndega, pahukama

TO GOD BE THE GLORY!

Come on United!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Rushhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

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